I visited three different site on Stillhouse Hollow Lake this afternoon. I was looking for birds.
First, I went to Union Grove. There were a ton of American Coots on the lake, but not many other kinds of birds. I did see one Pied-billed Grebe and a Double-crested Cormorant. Out of the water, I saw a ton of Pine Siskins and a Song Sparrow.
My second stop was at River’s Bend Park. There was more to see there. Of course, there were a ton of American Coots, and a couple of Pied-billed Grebes. There was also an American Kestrel, a Great Blue Heron, a Wilson’s Snipe (a life bird for me!!), a few Killdeer, Savannah Sparrows, some Ring-bille Gulls, and a couple of Redheads.
After I left River’s Bend, I stopped at the Chalk Ridge Falls Trail. There were a ton of Western Bluebirds, a beautiful Mockingbird that posed for me, and a couple of Pine Siskins.
The sadness came when I was heading back to my car to come home. When I first got there, I ran into an older couple with two dogs. One was on a leash, and the other was not.
Let me stop to say something here that some people may not like. There are leash laws and leash rules in parks for a reason. An animal can be spooked by a lot of different things, and almost every day I read about a dog attacking someone walking in their neighborhood because the dog was off-leash. I understand that they like to run free. That’s why there are dog parks–safe, enclosed areas where dogs can run, but are kept within a fenced area. Some of these parks are huge! Is the cost of someone getting hurt because a dog got spooked by something they did worth it? Is it worth the fines, the impoundment and possible euthanasia of the dog worth it? Sorry…I have two dogs, and they are always leashed when we are walking or away from the house for any reason.
Anyway, a large, wild, forested area has so many smells, sounds and enticing things for dogs that taking them off-leash to a place like that is just inviting trouble. And that’s not to mention that children are running on trails (children can often scare dogs with their fast movements, and that can end up in dangerous situations, also). So, as I was heading back to the car, I heard someone yelling over and over for someone whose name sounded like mine. I quickened my step, thinking that maybe a neighbor had an emergency or something, not that I could understand why they would look for me there or how they found me… It turns out that the unleashed dog ran into the woods and did not return. The woman was frantic, and she was losing her voice. The man was despondent, holding the leash of the other dog and looking like he would soon be crying. A young woman I had seen on the trail ran into the woods where they said the dog had gone, trying to look for it, but had no luck.
My heart was breaking for this couple, but I needed to leave and get home to take care of my own dogs. I knew they would be hungry and happy to see me. I have no idea if they ever found their dog. And it has saddened me all evening. Why did they just not have the dog on a leash? It’s one of the park rules, but it seems like more and more people don’t think that rules apply to them.
In fact, a young couple was at River’s Bend with a large unleashed dog that was running in the water where the Great Blue Herons nest. Again, why? I could see that the dog was having a great time, but what about the destruction to the Herons’ habitat? I guess people just don’t think about such things.
The other thing about allowing dogs to romp in water like that is that it could (and often does) have microbes that can be harmful to a dog. This was an area of the lake with not much water movement, and a lot of waterfowl that “foul” the water. The water in a park in Colorado was responsible for more than one dog death during the time I lived there, even though there were signs posted warning about the dangers of wading in, drinking, or allowing animals to play in or drink the water. I guess people just don’t think about such things. I certainly hope that dog will be OK, but I’m actually more worried about the Herons.
So, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, if you have dogs or other pets that you love, PLEASE don’t take them out in your neighborhood or to parks (other than designated dog parks) without a leash. Bad things happen every day to people and animals because people just don’t think about such things.